TWIST (2021)

Genre: Action/Drama
Director: Martin Owen
Cast: Raff Law, Sir Michael Caine, Lena Headey, Rita Ora, Franz Drameh, Sophie Simnett
Runtime: 1 hr 32 mins
Rating: NC16 (Some Mature Content and Coarse Language)
Released By: Shaw Organisation
Official Website: 

Opening Day: 4 March 2021

Synopsis: Twist is a Dickens’ classic brought thrillingly up to date in the teeming heartland of modern London, where a group of street smart young hustlers plan the heist of the century for the ultimate payday.

Movie Review:

The title is short for Oliver Twist, re-imagined here as a young graffiti artist who falls in with east London art dealer turned crime boss Fagin and his gang of fellow orphan misfits.

Billed as a modern-day reboot of Charles Dickens’ most famous work, director Martin Owen’s ‘Twist’ glosses over its character’s formative orphanage experience and skips ahead to his street crime exploits with the ‘gentleman whom the Artful Dodger spoke’. In particular, Twist gets caught up with Fagin’s revenge plot against his former unscrupulous competitor, while needing to contend with a sinister villain Fagin is in cahoots with.

At just under one and a half hours, the plotting – scripted by Owen with co-writers Sally Collett and John Wrathall – moves briskly enough to keep you engaged, weaving a heist narrative with double-crosses and forbidden teenage romances. So besides trying to make off with sleazy gallery owner Crispin Losberne’s (David Walliams) stolen Hogarth painting, Twist has to make sure Sikes (Lena Headey) does not kill him first, especially since he has fallen in love with her lover Red (Sophie Simnett).

We should add that Sikes isn’t the only gender-switched character in the film; there is also Dodge (or ‘Dodger’), played by British singer-songwriter Rita Ora. Like in Dickens’ book, Dodge and Batesy (or ‘Charley Bates’ if you remember the characters) are the ones who introduce Twist to Fagin, and who will eventually be torn between loyalty to Fagin and standing up for the injustices which Twist has to endure at the hands of Fagin and Sikes.

It’s not hard to guess with so many characters that few would be sufficiently developed, and indeed, besides Twist, the motivations and convictions of all the other supporting players are either too simplistic or undercooked. By extension therefore, the likes of Caine and Headey are sorely underused, even as they take top billing in the ensemble. Even Twist, whose story this movie is supposed to tell, is barely compelling enough to be worthy of a movie to his name, not least because the central relationship between Twist and Fagin is given short shrift.

What it does have going for it is rhythm and vigour. Owens has clearly seen his fair share of Guy Ritchie movies, and he brings the same hyperactivity to the action and comedy here, especially the parkour scenes that see Twist and Red running, jumping and leaping over buildings. Than build drama, Owens goes for the sort of gangster aesthetic that catapulted Ritchie to Hollywood fame in the first place, and although he never reaches the same heights, there is no denying the energy and light-footed momentum that he injects into the picture.

In truth, billing it as a modern-day take on the classic Oliver Twist story is probably just a gimmick, and an unnecessary one at that. Ultimately, ‘Twist’ is no more than a diverting caper flick which tries to be fun, entertaining and rousing while it lasts. The association with Dickens is less clever than unfortunate, especially since it hardly lives up to the source material in the first place. You’re better off thinking of it as ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’-lite, and enjoying it for what it is worth on that basis.

Movie Rating:

(For fans of Guy Ritchie's British gangster flicks, 'Twist' is a diverting enough filler in between 'The Gentlemen' and his next genre exercise)

Review by Gabriel Chong


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